Why we should make ‘alignment’ the word of the moment

Change seems to be on the horizon. 2021 started with Germany approving a law to protect human rights in global supply chains, followed by the Dutch parliament launching a bill for Responsible and Sustainable International Business. Finally, the European Commission is endorsing this cause with a bill that could force companies to eliminate environmental and human rights abuses from their chains. It is still too soon to celebrate, as legislation remains a work-in-progress, but it is definitely time to ALIGN.

For a long time, competition set the tone between organisations seeking to identify problems and bring innovative solutions, leaving competitors behind. As we can easily agree, nowadays the big problems needing solving are pretty evident to all of us, as they threaten our very existence. Just in time, this unhealthy competitive environment is finally losing place to calls for collaboration. Partnerships. Togetherness. Alignment. If individually we seem to have failed, as a group our impact can be magnified.

That’s the spirit of ALIGN, our guidance tool for agri-food companies, developed to reduce complexity around the topic of living wage and income. The platform brings together the work of leading organisations and experts, and directs users to relevant resources, tools and partners. Developed in 2019 by Fairfood and Hivos, and implemented with the help of GIZ and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, it quickly expanded and brought together important partners such as Rainforest Alliance and the Living Income Community of Practice in 2020.

Now, we proudly started 2021 by welcoming Fairtrade International and the IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative. “The current pandemic puts a magnifying glass on the harsh reality that farmers and food workers are faced with. As they don’t earn a living income or wage, they have no financial buffer whatsoever to absorb any unexpected expenses, let alone absorb the blow that is the pandemic”, says Fairtrade’s director, Peter d’Angremond. “That really needs to change. To do so, collaboration between supply chain partners is key. That is why we are happy to join ALIGN, where we can share our vast experience in the field of living wages and incomes, and where we can take that next step – together.”

ALIGN partners can now count on Fairtrade’s expertise in the mission of enabling farmers and workers to have more control over their lives, alongside with the IDH’s knowledge, which we also find in their Roadmap on Living Wages, designed to create consensus, collaborate and coordinate efforts on living wages with companies. “This is done through recognising living wage benchmarks, standardising the measurement of current wage, providing auditing verification of data, and building and scaling up solutions to close gaps. We joined ALIGN to further expend this mission of alignment and to further collaborate with our shared partners”, explains Carla Romeu Dalmau, IDH’s Living Wage and Better Jobs Strategy Lead.

Besides the process of exchanging and learning on strategies to close income and wage gaps, Stephanie Daniels, Senior Program Director or the Living Income Community of Practice highlights the importance of alignment on both the use of common income and wage benchmarks, as well as a process of exchange and learning on strategies to close income and wage gaps. “The ALIGN platform is a much needed central location to house the critical data to enable these strategic dialogues and action”, she adds.

We are all aligned to make trade fair, by bridging the gap between businesses, governments and the people in charge of producing our food. Still not familiar with the platform and its multiple functions? It’s about time to check it out and start aligning!

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